Health Library Explorer
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z A-Z Listings Contact Us
Adult Health Library
Translate
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Topic IndexLibrary Index
Click a letter to see a list of conditions beginning with that letter.
Click 'Topic Index' to return to the index for the current topic.
Click 'Library Index' to return to the listing of all topics.

Orthodontics/Braces for Children

Picture of a smiling mouth with braces

What is orthodontics?

Orthodontics is the dental specialty that focuses on the development, prevention, and correction of irregularities of the teeth, bite, and jaws. Orthodontists also have specialized training in facial abnormalities and disorders of the jaw. Your dentist may refer your child to an orthodontist. The American Dental Association recommends that every child have an orthodontic evaluation by 7 years of age.

Why choose orthodontic treatment?

Any orthodontic problem may be classified as a malocclusion, or "bad bite." The following problems may be helped or minimized with proper orthodontic treatment:

  • Misaligned, crooked, or crowded teeth

  • Missing teeth

  • Extra teeth

  • An overbite

  • An underbite

  • An openbite

  • Misaligned or incorrect jaw position

  • A disorder of the jaw joint

What age should my child get braces?

In most cases, the ideal age for braces and other orthodontic treatments is between 10 and 14 years of age. Moving and correcting the alignment of the teeth follows the same process regardless of age. However, an adult mouth must overcome already-positioned facial bones and jaw structure. Thus, overcoming most types of malocclusions may require more than one type of orthodontic treatment for adults and can sometimes involve jaw surgery.

What are the different types of braces available?

Braces generally come in 3 varieties:

  • Brackets, metal or plastic, clear or tooth-colored, that are bonded to teeth

  • Lingual-type brackets that attach to the back of teeth, hidden from view

  • Bands that cover most of the teeth with metal bands that wrap around the teeth

All 3 types use wires to move the teeth to the desired position. Clear, removable teeth aligners may also be an option. Ask your orthodontist. 

Oral health care and braces

The following recommendations will help to eliminate, or reduce, any oral health problems while your child's teeth are in braces:

  • Make certain that your child is brushing his/her teeth carefully after every meal with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush, as food becomes easily lodged in the braces. A new toothbrush may be needed every 3 to 4 months, or sooner if bristles are broken or frayed. A worn toothbrush doesn't do a good job of cleaning the teeth.

  • Make certain that your child is flossing daily between the teeth and the braces. A floss threader may be useful to carry the floss under the arch wire. 

  • Be sure your child has his or her teeth cleaned every 6 months, or as often as recommended by your dentist.

  • Limit your child's sugar and starch intake, as debris left behind from these types of foods may turn into damaging acids, which may be harmful to teeth and gums and promote plaque formation.

  • Avoid hard and/or sticky snacks that may be difficult to remove from the orthodontic equipment in your child's mouth. This includes hard foods such as popcorn, hard candy, nuts, and ice chips, and sticky foods like chewing gum, caramel, and other chewy candy.

Ask your dentist about prescription fluoride toothpaste or the application of a fluoride varnish around the braces to minimize white spots on the teeth after the braces come off. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Bass, Pat F. III, MD, MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Eakle, W. Stephan, DDS
Online Medical Reviewer: Hollaway, Beth, RN, M.Ed
Date Last Reviewed: 3/17/2013
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
Powered By Krames StayWell
Copyright © Krames StayWell except where otherwise noted.
About Us
  • Follow Us On:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Health Hub
  • Pinterest
  • Google+
  • YouTube
  • RSS
  •  
  • Bookmark and Share
© Brigham and Women's Hospital | 75 Francis Street, Boston MA 02115 | 617-732-5500